The cocktail stick is in blossom
These days with so many orchid species in blossom we also record new species for Dokmai Garden and the Orchid Ark. The latest addition is Bulbophyllum affine (Orchidaceae). It has elongated pseudobulbs and only one flower is formed on each flowering stalk which is really tall. One orchid plant may produce multiple flowering stalks next to the pseudobulb or on the rhizome. The flowering buds with their long stalks remind me of some unbranched club mushrooms (Clavariadelphus) or cocktail sticks. ‘Affine’ is a surprisingly boring name meaning ‘related to’. If we want to create an interest in the native wild orchids with the aim of preserving them and their habitats, we need English names to get tourists and settlers hooked. Scientific names are essential but may scare away beginners. I propose the English name ‘cocktail stick’.
The cocktail stick is native to Himalaya, southern China and northern Southeast Asia including northern Thailand. Based on field excursions in the Chiang Rai area where we have seen it in the wild (500-700 m altitude), it seems to prefer shaded areas along streams in otherwise very dry dipterocarp forests. It can grow in drier climate too, even sun exposed, but then the pseudobulbs tend to get smaller. One of our orchid scouts remarked he has never seen it in evergreen habitats. With this background we have recently allowed one pioneer specimen out in the Dokmai Garden monsoon woodland. If it thrives, the rest can follow, if it suffers, we change habitat. The ultimate goal is to establish thriving populations in the garden which may reproduce naturally, and these orchids could be transferred back to the national parks the day poverty and greed no longer initiate orchid theft, fires and illegal logging in the national parks.
When taking cuttings from a Bulbophyllum orchid, one should cut out a rhizome (stem) which contains at least three pseudobulbs, to give the transplanted orchid a good start. Tie it firmly to the substrate at eye level or higher, using at least two strings made of natural fiber. If planted in a deciduous tree, allow the orchid leaves to face north or east to reduce the sun intensity.
Another message: the ‘raspberry jam orchid’ is still in blossom – one of my favourites!
Text & Photo: Eric Danell